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Vikingsholm at Lake Tahoe

Historic Site or District

ADA Accessibility Notes

Accessible by hiking trail or private boat only.

Vikingsholm is located at the head of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe. This magnificent "castle" is a unique blend of nature's spectacular beauty and man's architectural ingenuity. It is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere.


Limited parking is available in the Vikingsholm parking lot off of Highway 89. The parking fee is $7.00. (It is advised to come for morning tours as there are more parking opportunities at that time.) Bus service to the parking lot is available from both North Shore and South Shore. A one-mile steep, but well defined, trail leads from the parking lot to Vikingsholm. Many scenic views can be enjoyed during this walk. There are various resting places along the trail. It is to be stressed though, that this is a steep trail at an elevation of over 6,300 feet. There is no public boat service to Vikingsholm, but it can be reached by private boat. A dock is provided for loading and unloading only.


Situated majestically below shear granite cliffs, among towering pines and cedars, Vikingsholm was built as a summer home by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight in 1929. She purchased the property encompassing the head of Emerald Bay in 1928 for $250,000. Mrs. Knight's land included the only island (Fanette Island) in Lake Tahoe and the only water fall (Eagle Falls) flowing directly into the Lake. Mrs. Knight wanted to build a summer home that would complement the magnificent natural surroundings. Emerald Bay reminded her of many of the fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia. She commissioned her nephew, a Swedish architect, to design the plans.

Before starting construction of the summer home late that year, Mrs. Knight and her architect traveled to Scandinavia to gather ideas for the construction of the house. The foundation was laid late in the summer of 1928, and construction began in the spring of 1929. Two hundred highly skilled workers were brought to Emerald Bay and started hand hewing the timbers, carving the intricate designs, hand planing the wood for the interior walls, and forging the hinges and latches, all at the site. Most of the materials to construct the home came from the Tahoe Basin. Trees were cut for their size and lack of knots, and the granite for the foundation and walls was quarried from behind the house. The ideas for the construction came from buildings dating as far back as the 11th century. Some sections of the home contain no nails, pegs, or spikes. They worked diligently throughout the summer and by the end of the season the house was completed. In addition to the house, they also constructed a stone tea house with stained glass windows on top of Fannette Island.

Outstanding features of the exterior of Vikingsholm include round granite boulders embedded in mortar typical of stone churches and castles built in the 11th century in Southern Sweden; massive hand hewn timbers characteristics of those used by the early Norsemen; carvings around the doors adapted from carvings that bordered old church entrances; carvings extending along roof ridges with dragon heads crossing at the roof peaks and a sod roof seeded with wildflowers. The interior of the home has paintings on some of the ceilings and walls and two intricately carved dragon beams, modeled on beams that hung originally in very old Viking castles. The six fireplaces are of Scandinavian design with unusual fireplace screens. Most of the furnishings in the home were originally selected by Mrs. Knight and reflect typical pieces used in Scandinavian homes of the period. A number of original antiques were purchased and others were reproduced to exact detail, even to the aging of the wood and duplication of scratches.

The completed home was occupied by Mrs. Knight and her staff of 15 in June of 1930. Mrs. Knight enjoyed 15 summers at Vikingsholm. She always had a house full of guests to share this magnificent summer home . Mrs. Knight passed away at the age of 82 in 1945. After her death, the home was sold several times to private owners. In the early 1950s, Mr. Harvey West, a noted philanthropist, negotiated with the State of California and said he would donate one-half of the appraised value of the land, as well as the Vikingsholm itself outright, if the State would pay him the other half. This arrangement was agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired by the State. Vikingsholm is now a part of the Harvey West Unit of the Emerald Bay State Park. The house is open for tours in the summer months and the grounds and magnificent scenery may be enjoyed all year-round by those wishing to visit this beautiful setting.

To learn more about Vikingsholm and the Vikingsholm Foundation, please visit

Pet Friendly Notes

No dogs please.

Time Period Represented



Daily 10:30am-4:30pm

Seasons Open

Summer: Memorial Weekend through September


Guided tours: Adults $5, Children 6-17 $3, Children under 6 are free

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